I remember the night Joe Castiglione called me at home
to tell me we had hired a new track and field coach. The
excitable Italian was excited even for him.
He told me almost breathlessly, “We’ve
hired Martin Smith.” And then there was
With apologies to Coach Smith, I was not all that hip
to track and field coaching circles. Even with
a limited high school cross country career, I didn’t
realize the monumental hiring Joe had just pulled off.
I think I came up with some sort of response that
helped me avoid the “idiot” tag and then
Joe said this... “Trust me, it will get the attention
of the Big 12 and national communities.”
And it did. Smith, in just his second year in
Norman, ended the men’s track and field conference
title drought of 29 years when the Sooners won last
weekend’s championship at Lincoln, Neb.
The women were sixth and they’re coming.
This has been a year of great coaching jobs at Oklahoma. I
wrote in this space earlier this school year about
the remarkable reclamation work of Santiago Restrepo
in volleyball. Now Smith has taken another program
long mired in something less than mediocrity and placed
a Big 12 trophy on the mantel.
Let that soak in for a moment. In the 10 years
prior to Smith’s arrival in Norman, the OU men
had finished no better than fourth in the Big 12, and
they did that only twice. Their average finish
in that stretch was, gulp, seventh.
In two years, Smith took the OU men from 10th , their
finish the year before he arrived, to first.
The women were dead last the year before he got here. Last
year they moved to 10th and this year they were
sixth, their best finish since 2001.
Not long after that above-mentioned phone call with
Joe C., I called Coach Smith to get quotes for the
announcement of his hiring. That phone conversation
took me back more than 10 years when I wrote about
another hiring, the one telling everyone that Kansas
State had hired a football coach named Bill Snyder.
Anybody that knows Snyder considers him one-of-a-kind.
I did too until I spoke with Smith.
Honestly, I probably don’t know either one of
them well enough to draw a comparison, but they both
possess one quality that is unmistakable. Both
have an uncanny ability to live beyond the moment.
Snyder’s team scored a thrilling comeback over
North Texas to get his first win at KSU and end a long
string of futility. As I walked the coach to the
interview room that day I was as giddy as an eight-week
He looked at me like I had lost my mind.
Snyder’s thoughts were somewhere in the future.
On that staircase leading from the locker room to the
interview room I was the only dork living in the moment.
Coach Smith strikes me the same way. He enjoys his
athletes and appreciates the victories, but I get the
distinct feeling that he’ll probably wait until
retirement to sit back and really squeeze all of the
happiness out of a career that as either a head or
assistant coach has yielded 25 conference and five
national championships. In the meantime, his focus
is on bigger prizes and the championships yet to be
And that’s fine. It’s an approach that
works for him.
As for me, I’m bounding through the hallways,
screaming like a mad man.
Mossman Prophecies Archive
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Kenny Mossman, Associate Athletics Director for
Communications, provides his perspective on Oklahoma
Athletics in his regular column on SoonerSports.com.